Yaw Osafo-Maafo, a senior presidential advisor, has disclosed that the government flagship Free Senior High School, Free SHS, programme will remain untouched amid talks with the International Monetary Fund, IMF, for a financial rescue programme.
He disclosed at an event in Accra on Monday, October 10, that the programme and social interventions in the education sector, in general, will not be impacted by ongoing negotiations.
He dismissed calls for the IMF to demand cuts to the Free SHS expenditure admitting, however, that calls for a relook at the programme’s implementation were in the right direction.
“If there is any sector that we should not touch the expenditure, that sector is education. Because we are protecting the potential use of our resources in a very efficient and effective manner.
“So, if you touch education, you are undermining your own development paradigm. So, that is not the area to go when you decide to cut expenditure,” he stressed.
On the Free SHS policy, he pointed out how political opponents “fan their support base by pointing out the amount of money the government will save if the Free SHS is abolished.
“People have written and I have read in the papers arguing that one of the first things IMF should look at as they admit us into the IMF programme is to cut the Free SHS. Let me tell you here and now, we are negotiating with the IMF and Free SHS will not be touched, we cannot touch it,” he stressed.
He pointed out further that the IMF as an institution was pro-poor adding that free High School education was a social intervention that is being enjoyed across the Western world.
“The IMF itself as an institution is pro-poor, the IMF itself believes in education so how can IMF ask you to cut Free SHS? Don’t you have Free SHS in America, don’t you have Free SHS in Germany, don’t you have it in Europe?
“Most of the developed world has Free High School, so we are taking the right path towards development and I can assure you that the IMF will not touch the Free SHS,” he stated.
On the issue of calls for a review of the programme, he said: “Let us meet to discuss the overall implementation with the view to improving efficiency and effectiveness and we may realign certain things, but cutting it is out of the question.”
He argued that the economy can support flagship programmes currently in place, “the challenges being faced are short-term and we cannot afford to sacrifice our common vision due to short-term economic pressures,” he added.
The Free SHS programme has become topical in recent times with the government seeking a programme with the International Monetary Fund, IMF, amid an economic downturn.
Calls for a review of the programme have heightened whiles fears of the IMF calling for a scrapping or massive review of the programme have also come up.
Government insists that Free SHS will remain untouched in its current form, allying with any fears and or critique.
The Free SHS policy is one of the main policies of the government of Ghana, which started in September 2017.
“Every child in Ghana who qualifies for, and is placed in a public Senior High School for his secondary education will have his/her fees absorbed by the government,” the Free SHS secretariat said on its website.